The Laser Cutter
- Prototyping – don’t go to the ‘nth’ degree
- PRO TIP: Checkout the Inkscape tutorials that are online.
- How the Laser works – the laser is actually at the back of the machine, compressed air follows the laser and blows out the cut. Everything in the laser is based on mirrors.
- Etching – depends on the materials and how the beam is set – you choose whether you etch around to emboss or etch only your design to deboss.
- PRO TIP: Use cardboard until the cows come home
- It decays easily
- prototyping an idea is quick
- It is relatively cheap or free – the Uni has plenty of stock
- When designing an acrylic structure for laser cutting, make sure that:
- You round the corners.
- Be aware that it cracks easily – dont go to fine.
- On a router, acrylic is a pain in the arse.
- When designing with plywood
- Remember that it is layered peace of ply (timber) going in different directions
- The glue/resin to keep the ply wood together can smell toxic when cut.
- You can’t cut marina ply on this Trotec Laser
- Remember Ply is flexible
- Play with organic shapes
- Look at Tessolating – Veroni Patterns
- When you prototype in cardboard, thickness is essential for locking.
- Try to do nesting – it wastes less material and stacks nice.
- PRO TIP: Check out Laser Origami on learning at Griffith
Follow the Process:
- Generate idea
- Sketch it Out
- Create Cad Model – Adobe Illustrator/Fusion 360
- 2D Presentation
- Laser cutter setup – Trotec Job Control
- Cutting time – you can not leave the laser unattended
- Post Production time – fitting pieces together, sanding, glueing, painting etc.
Notes on the Process:
We were challenged for the first week to make a 3D mobile phone holder, my teammate and I took a more critical approach, where others in the class took a more artist approach. It was very interesting to see the projects come to life so quickly on the laser cutter and being able to push them out of cardboard and assemble.
We obviously had problems with our joins (being 3mm cardboard and it flexing), we thought too small and would need to refine out process to test and improve. It was a good learning curve that in the first instance not to be too critical. I think the goal is to come up with an idea, ROUGH PROTOTYPE IT FIRST, and then refine. We started by being too refined like we only ever had one chance at this and as such, things were too tight and assembling (doing it in 3D) caused problems we did not think when using Adobe Illustrator in 2D.
Q. How is this technology facilitated within your industry/your discipline?
Currently, there are a number of printers in Brisbane that have started using laser cutting as a way of extending the reach of visual communication. From sales stands where items are made from plywood and cardboard to containers for annual reports and even the boxes to carry your new furry pet home in. These are applications that use a laser cutter in-house to speed up the manufacturing process of design and visual communication.
There is a great article on AP Lazer that shows crafty uses for a laser cutter, it is worth a look: https://aplazer.com/20-crafty-uses-for-a-laser-engraver-and-cutter/ (Photos from the article are above).
I paid for the use of the laser cutter at the local business Colour Chiefs to etch into the cover of my artist book, as well as to have accurate holes cut and screw heads recessed into plywood. I find the use of the laser cutter in visually communicating a brand or project is just getting started, as it is not really mainstream yet but is definitely on its way.
Below are some examples from colour chiefs, my own work and what I have found online. You can see the variety of uses for a laser cutter abound, however the burn marks (from cutting or etching) with the laser can be considered unsightly, so this is where substrate printing comes in handy, or the product can be painted over once made.
Q. What are the possible future for this technology?
Currently, we are seeing flatbed laser cutters, what if laser cutting went like 3D printing and could etch and whittle out a block of a substrate (such as wood, plastic or cardboard)? We currently cant 3D print wood, and are limited to plastic, so would the be an alternative to a CNC router?
As seen in the video below, using the CNC laser cutter in a locked position and rotating the substrates, intricate cuts can be obtained which gives the laser cutter technical uses more suited to engineering and less to visual communication.